Fri, Feb 07, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan will look after its own in event of Iraqi war

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan will safeguard its national interests both domestically and internationally should the US lead a war against Iraq, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) said yesterday.

"If this war takes place, we have to safeguard our interests domestically and overseas," Chien said at the ministry.

Chien made the statement followed US Secretary of State Colin Powell's report on Wednesday to a special session of the UN Security Council on Baghdad's alleged weapons programs and links to terrorist groups.

"Both the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan have detailed contingency plans at hand," Chien said.

The minister said the government would ensure that oil supplies remain stable and any likely negative impact on the nation's economic growth diverted.

The ministry would also work to ensure safety of Taiwanese based in the Middle East and the Gulf region should a US-led coalition launch a military strike on Iraq, Chien added.

Over 3,000 Taiwanese reside in Middle Eastern and Gulf countries,according to ministry's estimates. Around 2,500 of them are based in Saudi Arabia.

The foreign minister said it's unlikely that Taiwan would be involved militarily in a war against Iraq.

He also reiterated the government's willingness to take part in the humanitarian aid effort to Iraqis in the aftermath of a war, although he declined to elaborate on plans in this regard.

But in view of the divided world opinion about an attack on Iraq, a ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Taipei would be much more cautious in offering any assistance to an Iraqi war as compared to its previous assistance in the Afghan conflict.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) also elaborated on the Iraq case prior to his participation in a cross-ministerial meeting on contingency plans over a likely war.

The meeting yesterday afternoon was hosted by Vice Premier Lin Hsin-yi (林信義).

"While Taiwan in general supports a war against terrorism -- as terrorism poses as an uncivilized way to reach one's political objective -- we also notice that world opinion in the case of Iraq remains rather divided," Kau said.

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